Strategies and Skills for the Energy Transition

This website is about how companies and countries can develop a clear strategy for the energy transition, and then implement it successfully through capacity building and skills development. Building the skills required by the energy workforce is critical. A diverse, highly skilled and creative workforce is vital to meeting the challenges that lie ahead. 

Resource Economist has provided training courses in oil, gas, power and renewables since 2013. Its founder Peter Stewart has more than 30 years experience as an energy journalist, analyst and consultant. More recently, Peter trained as a coach and mentor, and he is now accredited at foundation level with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council. 

I have worked in the energy industry for the last 30 years as a writer and editor, first as a journalist, then as a consultant and analyst. During this period, the energy industry has embarked on a transition from fossil fuels to sustainable low carbon alternatives. This change will redefine the industry,

The next decade will see further tectonic changes in the energy landscape, driven by trends in automation, data science, and the urgent need to mitigate climate change.

My company Resource Economist provides training, coaching and mentoring to equip staff to meet the challenges ahead. The human dimension to the energy transition is often overlooked, but workforce skills, corporate strategy, individual and organisational mindsets and human capital development will be critical to achieving climate goals over the next decade.

This website provides a narrative around future pathways and scenarios for the energy sector. I have a particular interest in the energy workforce including diversity issues, leadership and the need for creativity, and community engagement. Click here for more details about my own energy journey, including my career history and my current goals.

Skills Gap Challenges Energy Majors

Skills Gap Challenges Energy Majors

New graduates are shunning the oil and gas industry in droves, despite the lure of good salaries. What can the industry do to attract top talent?

Interview: CTEC Energy

Interview: CTEC Energy

We interviewed Mike Burns at CTEC Energy in Newhaven Port. The gasifier project converts plastics and biomass into electricity and heat with significantly lower emissions than a traditional incinerator. 

Energy Journal – Nov 2020

The latest Energy Journal from the International Association of Energy Economics has landed on my doormat with a loud thud. The latest issue is 312 pages long. In Volume 41, Number 6, I was struck by the paper Are Energy Executives Rewarded For Luck? by Lucas Davis...

Energy for a Net Zero Society

The BIEE’s bi-annual research conference will be held on March 30-31, 2021. The conference will focus on building the foundations and policies of the low carbon transition aimed at achieving a net zero carbon society in a way that is fair and just. It will address how we live, work and travel, and how policy, infrastructure and the private sector can respond to enable the transformation of heat, transport and industry.

Peter took me under his wing in my first steps as an energy reporter and his support and guidance was invaluable, as were the many interesting talks we had re. the need to make the energy industry more inclusive. If you are looking for a coach or mentor with a focus on the #energytransition, I would absolutely recommend working with him!

Anna Gumbau

Correspondent, Carbon Pulse

Latest Blog Posts

Interview: CTEC Energy

We interviewed Mike Burns at CTEC Energy in Newhaven Port. The gasifier project converts plastics and biomass into electricity and heat with significantly lower emissions than a traditional incinerator. 

Energy Journal – Nov 2020

The latest Energy Journal from the International Association of Energy Economics has landed on my doormat with a loud thud. The latest issue is 312 pages long. In Volume 41, Number 6, I was struck by the paper Are Energy Executives Rewarded For Luck? by Lucas Davis...

Energy for a Net Zero Society

The BIEE’s bi-annual research conference will be held on March 30-31, 2021. The conference will focus on building the foundations and policies of the low carbon transition aimed at achieving a net zero carbon society in a way that is fair and just. It will address how we live, work and travel, and how policy, infrastructure and the private sector can respond to enable the transformation of heat, transport and industry.

Concrete Steps (Still) Needed

The article below was carried in the December 2018 edition of Power Fuels Tracker, an Interfax publication of which I was editor. Most of the content is still (sadly) relevant. By Peter Stewart, Interfax Chief Energy Analyst “Don’t divide the skin while it’s still on...

IRENA releases Green Hydrogen report

The International Renewable Energy Association IRENA released a major report on the potential for green hydrogen in September 2019. The report is available for download using the button under the photo of the report cover to the left. 

Getting Serious About Net Zero

Energy Policy Conference: Getting Serious About Net Zero The British Institute of Energy Economics held its annual policy conference on 23 September 2019 at the BEIS conference centre near Victoria Station in London. Peter was part of the coordinating committee for...

SUSTAINABLE TRANSITIONS

The Energy Transition is not a single transition but a series of interrelated challenges that have as their ultimate goal the production of energy sufficient to meet the needs of the growing world population, but with Net Zero emissions. The sectors that will be affected include heating and cooling; mobility and transport; food production; sanitation, water and waste disposal; and manufacturing including petrochemicals.

Many energy companies whose workforces are selected for their expertise in engineering and related technical skills rely on techno-economic solutions. When these are unable to deliver energy on the scale required while staying within planetary boundaries, the least worst alternative pathway is considered. The challenge is primarily problem-solving, and engineers are good at that. But this approach does not work when the danger of climate change threatens citizens, along with their children and grandchildren. 

Sustainable solutions are critical. Ticking the box is not enough. Energy companies have been criticized for decades, but the old polarisation of the industry versus environmental lobby groups remains counter-productive, and in many cases holds back positive change. Faced with lose-lose choices, the biggest energy companies often follow the path of least resistance and sit on their hands. Or they make token gestures to appease the public but keep their options open, compounding the public distrust.  

 

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1. DEVELOP A STRATEGY

Research suggests that only one third of all energy companies have a clear plan for the Energy Transition. The main reason for that is, not that they don’t think that change is coming, but they can’t agree a strategy to meet the challenge. Internal politics and positioning can prevent a consensus on what to do, and can lead to muddled messages to staff and shareholders.

First Step: Bite the bullet, have the difficult conversations, and build a strategy

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2. BUILD TRUST

Defining a clear strategy is a huge step forward. Building trust in the strategy is as important. Trust comes from consistency: hearing the same story across the company, in the media, and on public platforms. That requires clear leadership, plus time and effort spent on explaining the strategy to staff, shareholders and the public. 

Step 2: Explain the strategy, deal with any questions, respect difference

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3. COACH THE CULTURE

Going through a deep transition is not the work of a single day. A full-on commitment is required. Creating a coaching culture is one of the best ways to ensure that the business transitions required by the strategy don’t get left on the sidelines. All staff need to be on board. Training, coaching and mentoring can be critical for the success of the business transformation.

Step3: Reinforce strategy dynamics through training, coaching and mentoring

 

4. BE OPEN TO CHANGE

Having the courage to define a transition strategy inevitably carries risk. Faced with the uncertainties ahead, energy transition strategies must be kept under constant review and open to change. That is why having a coaching culture is so valuable. Being open to change means that everyone owns the courage to be wrong but also the will to prosper. 

Step 4: Encourage open review and informed discussion of how the strategy is working (or not).

 

STRATEGY AND MINDSETS

Defining a strategy is never easy, but it is a particularly knotty challenge given the huge uncertainties of the energy transition. Faced with a range of scenarios for climate change and technological change, it is unlikely that staff — even the experts — will agree on the techno-economic parameters, let alone the solution. Competitive position within the industry is a key unknown. Even if your company succeeds in reaching a Net Zero target, others might fall short.

Once the jungle of internal stakeholders has been negotiated, the strategy will also have to meet the divergent needs of external stakeholders, including regulators, shareholders, financiers, ethics committees and so on. These may have strong opinions on timeframes for implementation of any strategy. 

The strategy will also take into account the realities of where the company and staff are now. It is not realistic to change the DNA of a company overnight. In most cases, staff will have been carefully selected for hire based on their expertise, aptitudes and personal qualities, and these will have been important ingredients in shaping corporate culture. These will only change gradually, through a process of training, retraining, coaching and mentoring.

This brings into focus the need to simultaneously change mindsets, the underlying values and assumptions that guide and motivate a company’s decisions. Again, this will only happen through concerted effort by providing coaching and mentoring.

 

PEOPLE AND SKILLS

The Energy Transition will require new skills, new business models, and adaptive learning solutions. Is you company ready for this?

The quality of staff will be critical for implementing energy transition strategies, but this is not just about hiring talented STEM graduates. Diversity and individuality will be key to attracting young staff with the right mix of aptitudes. Most youngsters I have interviewed for jobs have asked about training and skills development programs, as well as career progression.

A learning culture may also be important for experienced staff. As the strategy is put in pace, experienced staff may need re-skilling, and this may be met with resistance if the corporate culture does not encourage life-long learning and skills development.

 

CREATING A COACHING CULTURE

Building a coaching culture can help achieve Energy Transition goals because it creates an open and emergent environment in which staff are encouraged to share not only their successes, but also their trials and occasional tribulations. Rather than allowing staff to blend into the wallpaper, a coaching culture emphasizes the need for each staff member to play their part in achieving the strategy, and to discuss areas that need work.

The coaching culture approach has been pioneered at a few large companies and it is still not widespread. The peer coaching approach requires staff with an interest to be trained in the ethical, psychological and developmental aspects of coaching, and they can then pass on these skills across their team. A coach is entrusted with maximizing the potential of their coachees; this builds trust within teams, and allows deeper staff relationships so that teams work more constructively together.

This requires maturity and emotional intelligence. Conflict and tensions are a fact of life, especially in the world of work, and in a highly competitive field such as energy. But with a coaching culture in place, the risk that these tensions disintegrate into petty squabbling, back-stabbing and mutual sabotage is diminished.  

CREATIVE ENERGY

STEM skills (Science, Technical, Engineering and Mathematics) have for many years been the bedrock on which coal, oil and gas companies have built themselves. These skills will be in strong demand as the energy transition progresses.

But the need for creative and talented individuals in the energy sector has never been fully acknowledged, and this need will only become greater as the sector moves from monolithic centrally-planned structures to more entrepreneurial highly distributed networks with a high degree of interdependence.

As a linguist and creative graduate (BA Cantab in English Literature and Oriental Studies, 1982) I am passionate about the opportunities and potential for young creative talent in the energy sector. I have talked at schools and universities about the buzz of working in energy, and I am keen to get the message across to attract the diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and personal backgrounds that the industry needs. 

 

HOW WE CAN HELP

Resource Economist provides several training courses to help companies develop their strategy to meet Energy Transition targets while maintain their competitive position in the industry:

  • Strategies for Energy Transition
  • Energy Transition: Strategy, Culture and Dynamics
  • Energy Transition: Science, Technologies and Economics

These courses are supplemented by individual and team coaching that can encourage employees to reframe their attitudes and assumptions about the energy transition. Polarisation of attitudes often becomes a barrier to constructive approaches to business transitions, and coaching can be a way to open employees to change, and to help teams work together to overcome their differences and harness their energy to make a real difference. 

We have strong contacts with experienced energy engineers and economists and can arrange mentoring programs for individual staff if required.

We also provide a full range of techno-economic courses covering traditional and new energy, from oil and gas, to power and renewables.

 

GET IN TOUCH !

I set up Resource Economist Ltd in 2013, and have been running it with my co-director Richard Powell and with admin and marketing support from my partner Jenny Stewart. Over the years, I have been lucky to work with a number of people who have agreed to become associates of Resource Economist. I also work as an associate and independent consultant and expert advisor for a number of third-party companies. My aim is to develop Resource Economist through partnerships with training, advisory and consulting firms as well as trade associations and companies.

Please don’ hesitate to contact me to discuss our courses or the potential for working together via email peter@resourceeconomist.com or using the mobile number at the top of the website.